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The Christmas and New Year holidays were once again peak periods for incidents of domestic disharmony in Sussex during the festive season, according to police figures.
Sussex Police again dedicated 'Operation Cranberry' patrols to respond to reports of domestic abuse over the Christmas and New Year period, with officers equipped with body-worn video cameras to help secure vital evidence.
982 incident calls, up from 643 for the same period last year, were recorded across the force area, resulting in 219 being recorded as crimes of various kinds ranging from assault to harrassment. The incident call numbers ranged from 60 on 21 December to 129 on New Years Day. 27 and 29 December were the next highest with 82 on each day.
Domestic abuse is always treated as a priority by the force, but due to the regular increase in incidents throughout the festive season it was vital that there are sufficient resources available to manage and respond to calls for urgent help.
The dedicated patrols began on 21 December and continued until 2 January. But officers continue to respond to and deal with such calls the year round.
Every day of the campaign, teams of uniformed officers worked a dedicated shift to attend incidents of domestic abuse as their sole priority over all other types of policing incidents.
Officers working on Operation Cranberry were also kept up to date by intelligence briefings about victims who may be particularly vulnerable, and about specific offenders who may pose a higher risk. In addition to officers attending the homes of victims, teams of specialist detectives can carry out follow-up investigations into domestic abuse crimes
Detective Sergeant Hari Flanagan from the force's Protecting Vulnerable People Branch said; "This was the fourth year that we operated these force-wide patrols, anticipating that this period would be particularly busy with calls for help, and again we were sadly proved correct.
"Throughout the rest of the year we receive an average of 55 such calls every day.
"The increase over the holiday period is often down to higher alcohol consumption, combined with families spending more time than usual with each other. Relationships which are potentially abusive may come to a head at this time.
"The increase in incident reporting this year was particularly noticeable, and we think it may be due at least in part to the fact that we have been actively campaiging, with partner agencies, to raise awareness of this issue and the support available to vulnerable people in dealing with it.
"In particular, just before Christmas, we carried out two really successful such multi-agency initiatives - our first ever 24-hour tweetathon and our first ever live web-chat, both on this important subject. We want people to be confident in contacting us for advice and assistance, and we see the figures as evidence that our efforts are beginning to pay off.
"The incidents reported did not necessarily result in crime reports, as many concerned for example ongoing family or personal disputes where other positive action was required from our officers, such as the giving of advice and / or information on support available for specific individual circumstances. The important point is that our officers have become more aware of the range of support and advice our partners offer. Thanks to third party reporting officers were able to record intelligence for future purposes also.
"In addition, every case in which a crime was recorded is being followed up for appropriate investigation and where appropriate prosecution or other action, although it is too early to give definitive statistics for these outcomes. Early attendance by police officers using video cameras increases the chance of gaining quality evidence, not just relying on the victim's word against their abuser.
"All agencies can help to end abuse if they are made aware of it. Domestic Abuse affects families and perpetrators can be parents, children and sibblings as well as partners. I would encourage anyone who is suffering abuse by a partner or family member to report this, if not to police, at least to a professional person or one of the agencies who specialise in providing expert support and advice."
Sussex Police will continue to treat all domestic abuse incidents as a priority at all times of year and to work closely with other agencies to keep victims safe. Although the majority of domestic abuse occurs against women, nearly one in five victims of abuse is a man."
Anyone who is suffering any form of abuse by a partner or family member is encouraged to report this by ringing the police on 101, or in an emergency dialling 999.